In an ordinary field in the Shaanxi province of China, farmers made one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of all time in 1974. They unearthed pieces of a clay human figure while digging. Simply put, this was the tip of the iceberg. The field was located over a number of trenches that were crammed with thousands of life size terracotta replicas of soldiers and war horses, as well as acrobats, esteemed officials, and other animals. This was Qin Shi Huang ‘s tomb.
Qin Shi Huang, who built the Great Wall of China against the Huns and some other tribes, also established the first centralized bureaucratic state order. He introduced a law, a currency, a road system, weights, length measurements and a written language with standardized spelling of characters. The system he established has survived to this day despite the change of dynasties. Terracotta soldiers seem to guard the tomb of Chinese Shi Huang, known as the “emperor of the firsts”. Despite being such a powerful emperor, he was known to be very afraid of death.
Despite the enormous amount of mystery surrounding it, the emperor’s tomb has never been uncovered, even though significant portions of the necropolis surrounding the mausoleum have been investigated. No one has dared to look into this tomb where the feared ruler was imprisoned for over 2000 years.
One major reason for this reluctance is that archaeologists are concerned that the excavation will harm the tomb, resulting in the loss of crucial historical information. Only invasive archaeological procedures could currently be utilized to enter the tomb, posing a great danger of irreparable harm.
Heinrich Schliemann’s excavations of the city of Troy in the 1870s are one of the best examples of this. In his haste and naivety, he managed to destroy practically all remains of the city he’d set out to discover. Archaeologists are determined not to be impatient and make the same mistakes again.
The possibility of employing some non-intrusive procedures to examine the tomb has been raised by scientists. Utilizing muons, a subatomic particle created when cosmic rays collide with atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere, which can see through objects like an improved Xray, is one possibility. However, it appears that few of these plans have really taken off.
There may be significantly more urgent and lethal risks associated with breaking open the tomb. Sima Qian, an ancient Chinese historian who lived around 100 years after Qin Shi Huang’s passing, describes how the tomb is outfitted with booby traps that are intended to murder any intruders.
“Palaces and scenic towers for a hundred officials were constructed, and the tomb was filled with rare artifacts and wonderful treasure. Craftsmen were ordered to make crossbows and arrows primed to shoot at anyone who enters the tomb. Mercury was used to simulate the hundred rivers, the Yangtze and Yellow River, and the great sea, and set to flow mechanically.”
This report claims that a flood of poisonous liquid mercury might wash across the gravediggers even if the 2000 year old bow weapons malfunction. That might sound like a hollow threat, but investigations of mercury concentrations near the tomb have revealed levels that are substantially higher than what would be predicted for a regular plot of ground.
The Qin Shi Huang tomb is currently closed and hidden, but it is not forgotten. However, it’s possible that when the time is right, scientific developments will eventually delve into the mysteries that have been buried here undisturbed for over 2200 years.